ASIA/PAKISTAN - Parliament discusses two measures in favor of religious minorities

Thursday, 20 October 2016 religious minorities   religious freedom   islam   politics   justice   discrimination   human rights  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - In the Parliament of Pakistan two bills on issues that touch the lives of religious minorities are being discussed: the first is the establishment of a special "Pakistan Minority Rights Commission" and the second is the "Law for the protection of minorities 2016", which addresses the delicate issue of forced conversions, making it a criminal offense.
As Fides learns, the first bill provides for the creation of an independent body, that can ensure respect for human rights, consisting of 11 members of different religions and ethnic groups, without excluding members that represent the majority community. The Commission will work especially for greater integration and equality of all citizens, beyond religious differences, limiting the abuses of human rights and discrimination.
The bill to address forced conversions is a very complex project. It states that a minor cannot change religion before reaching 18 years of age, "respecting freedom of religion and the child's interest", says in a statement sent to Fides, the Catholic Peter Jacob, now president of the NGO "Centre for Social Justice". The law takes into account the phenomenon of Christian or Hindu girls underage who are "kidnapped, raped and forced into Islamic marriage or slavery", recalls Jacob. In addition, there is the threat of being accused of "apostasy" in the event that a person freely leaves the Islamic religion.
"The bill is therefore a positive development", notes Jacob, recalling that in June 2014 an order of the Supreme Court had imposed on the government to form a commission that could monitor the respect for the rights of religious minorities.
"We hope that the government takes advantage of this opportunity for a quick approval of these two bills – says Jacob - to fulfill the country's resolute steps forward to counter the existing discrimination in Pakistani society on the basis of religion". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 20/10/2016)